To Kill a Mockingbird: Banned Book Challenge #2

The inclusion of To Kill a Mockingbird on virtually every Banned or Challenged list has always baffled me.

The summer before I started junior high, my dad told me to go to the school library and check out To Kill a Mockingbird. Though the Missouri he grew up in was not segregated, the storytelling and message of this book still had a major impact on him and he wanted his daughter to have the experience. And an experience it was.

I have always considered myself an avid reader, even when I was young. This was the first time I was overwhelmed by how much emotion a book could stir in me. I was sad and outraged over the injustice and yet Atticus, Jem, and Scout still left me feeling hopeful. Every fall through junior high and high school I reread it.

At a dinner with my parents tonight I mentioned I reread To Kill a Mockingbird again for this challenge, they were surprised. They could not understand who would object to it. They are, for better or worse, new to the often illogical logic of Banned Books.

It has been challenged because of the way black people are portrayed and for the way white people are portrayed. Language is often an issue as well, both for profanity and use of the “N” word. A middle school in Tennessee removed it because it “contained adult themes such as sexual intercourse, rape, and incest.”

I hesitate to start a pattern in these reviews, but it does need to be said. Before the magic 9p.m. hour of prime time kids still see any of manner of “adult themes” on the evening news, crime scene investigation shows, and the realities of today’s world. That is our reality. Racial issue are not part of a bygone era either. We live in an America now with a black President, but that does not mean we can ignore our past and make today’s achievements and struggles stand alone issues.

Harper Lee gave our nation a gift when she wrote To Kill a Mockingbird. She touches on all the realities of injustice and society in her time and tells us of them in a soft, but strong, voice. It is a brilliantly told tale of what is and what should be. I would like to think that we are a lot closer to what could be, but the tough discussions, especially brought about by this book, must be had so we never forget.


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